Voodoo Glow Skulls are one of the most successful ska/punk/metal bands of all time. Their drummer Jerry O’Neill took time out of his busy touring schedule to talk about music, touring, and the state of the recording industry.
Most people think touring is all fun, booze and seeing naked women, but as O’Neill explains, there’s less to it than that: “We’re on tour for 46 days with only two days off. We’ve been around the world quite a few times, but it’s usually the same thing. Play, get loaded, sleep, wake up and do it all over again. On our days off we usually try to go to a museum or meet some new people, but for the most part all we see is toilets and stages.”
Voodoo Glow Skulls have played with some of the biggest names in music. Actually, the biggest names in punk and ska music, the Offspring, Blink 182, and No Doubt, used to open up for them. While these bands have become MTV icons, the Glow Skulls haven’t quite made it to that level of popularity.
“I think it’s great when bands get big and gain airtime on MTV,” O’Neill said. “The only problem is when they forget where they came from and they start changing their music for the masses. That’s when it really loses its luster.”
The idea of selling out doesn’t mean much to Jerry or any of the other band members. They wouldn’t be selling themselves; they’d be doing it for others. Jerry clarifies what this means: “We aren’t that rich, we ride around the U.S. on a bus, sometimes a van. Sometimes there are thousands of people at the shows, sometimes there are only a hundred kids, we don’t really care. We have made a little money and so we decided to invest it back in the community that we came from. We started our own record label (El Pocho Loco Records) and the first five bands are bands from our hometown of Riverside, CA. We wanted to try and help bring the scene back, you know, give back to the community that made us what we are. You can never forget that the only way to have millions of fans is if you have twenty fans that love you for life and get the word out.”
Though Voodoo Glow Skulls are currently one of the most popular ska bands, they don’t feel like they really invented anything new.
“We are influenced just as much by bands like Iron Maiden as we are bands that experimented in ska, like The Clash,” O’Neill said. “Nowadays, I like to listen to bands like Soulfly and a new band, At the Drive In.”
Throughout the years, the Glow Skulls have seen their ups and downs, but despite great success they’ve opted to stick with their independent label, Epitaph. Jerry explained why they didn’t want to go anywhere else.
“We’re happy. Our contract is up in a year and we’ll probably sign another if they want to have us back. Our manager was pushing for a major label and we almost did it, but we stuck with Epitaph. We figured we’d be stuck in a sea of shitty bands and we’d lose our following that we have now. It really wasn’t worth it. It’s all still lots of fun for us.”
The Voodoo Glow Skulls have been together doing crazy shit for over 12 years and they’re likely to do it for 12 more. They have a new album, Symbolic, out on Epitaph. Check out the Voodoo Glow Skulls live when the Punk ‘O Rama 3 tour stops at the Trocadero this Friday. You won’t find a better night of entertainment anywhere in the city for less than $15.
Punk O’ Rama 3 Tour. Friday, October 13, 7pm. $12.50-$15. With Voodoo Glow Skulls, All, Straight Faced and Agnostic Front. Trocadero. 10th and Arch St. (215) 922-6888.